Generations of pupils at High Ham Primary School will remember Miss Everitt, the infant teacher who for decades taught the infant class at our two teacher school.
Progress in our school was simple, you went in the front door each morning. For the first half of the time you spent at the school, you turned right and went into the infant room. For the second half of your primary education, you turned left to go into the junior room, where you would be taught by Miss Rabbage, our headmistress.
However, whether you turned right or you turned left, the person who taught you “nature” lessons was Miss Everitt. In infant class, nature was an integral part of our daily education. In junior class, one afternoon a week, we crossed the corridor while the infants came into our room to allow us to spend the afternoon learning about nature.
There was no national curriculum fifty years ago, prescribing what should be taught to who at which age. Presumably, teachers had a syllabus they followed, a scheme of learning for each year, but there must have been a considerable degree of flexibility.
I remember history lessons on the ancient Sumerian civilisation and eminent Victorians and war heroes. I remember Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies in English along with 1960s reading books. I remember art lessons drawing the Queen’s Beasts and other art lessons in which we drew the art teacher’s pigeons (he came every Wednesday afternoon and actually brought into school the pigeons he took to local shows). But the lessons I most remember are the nature lessons.
Perhaps the lessons were part of a syllabus followed by every school and are remembered because they were different from much of 1960s education, which was, for the most part, very dry and very academic. Perhaps the lessons are remembered because they were part of the education throughout the time at the school. Perhaps the lessons are remembered because they were about the world around us.
Miss Everitt tried to fill us with a sense of wonder at the things we might otherwise have hardly noticed. Our lessons looked at the flora and fauna to be found in our own village. We were asked to bring in flowers, to draw them and to label each part of our drawings. Miss Everitt taught us about the seasons and about the changes for which we should watch as the year passed,
Miss Everitt was conservative and old-fashioned and would have recoiled at the idea of being labelled as in any way radical, but her lessons taught us an appreciation of our environment long before particular groups sought to appropriate the label “green” to themselves.